Gig/Concert: El Perro Del Mar with Taken By Trees
Venue: Mod Club, Toronto, ON, Canada
Date: 21 February 2010
Headliners: El Perro Del Mar
In one word: Transfixing
“Hello. Can you turn down the lights please?” were the opening words of Victoria Bergsman as Taken By Trees took to the stage. The Mod Club was dimly lit tonight, with tea-lights placed at the tables in the seating area to the right, while on the dance floor some bar tables had been placed and decorated with the same kind of lighting. Bergsman and her backing band were frequently silhouetted by the low lighting, while your gaze was drawn to the audio-visual sideshow as two projector screens either side of the stage displayed video.
The initial turn-out had been looking a bit scarce, with most people seemingly turning up as late as possible having been glued to Canada’s Winter Olympic showdown versus the United States in ice hockey. Such distractions as Canada’s impending loss at their national sport were likely quickly forgotten as Taken By Trees set began with the splendid opening guitar ditty of “To Lose Someone”.
I’d wondered how the organic beauty of Taken By Tree’s East Of Eden would translate to the live setting. Victoria Bergsman sounded every bit as good tonight as she does on record – her voice is absolutely serene, and here at the Mod Club she cemented her place in my mind as being one of my favourite singers of the moment.
For the most part Victoria’s all-male Swedish backing band were fantastic and stayed true to the natural sound embodied in the music of Taken By Trees; the drummer was great and often hit hard with big beaters, sending sonic booms pulsing throughout the venue, while the bassist was solid and the guitarist to Victoria’s right was brilliant, and equally adept when manning the flute or glockenspiel. However, there was one other guy in the band who was a very ill-fit to the whole natural vibe of the sound, this being the bloke to Victoria’s left who was manning a synthesizer. This guy didn’t take long to make his presence known in the most screeching, squealing, needles-in-your-ears annoyingly way. The sharp electro twitches emitted by this man became an unpleasant distraction and the levels were so off [in that he was way too loud] that the screecher often came too close to completely drowning out his other band mates and the star herself. I’m a huge fan of electro and synthpop but what was happening here was just plain obnoxious and was not adding anything positive to the music. By the seventh song of the set, “Lost and Found”, the keyboard player almost seemed to be battling with his fellow band mates rather than accompanying them, and he spoiled some fantastic flute segments provided by the guy to Victoria’s right.
As distracting as the electro villain was, there was thankfully so much other quality on stage that this gig can still be remembered for plenty of good reasons, best of all being the performance of Victoria Bergsman who stood out like a star in the artificial twilight.
After a rather lengthy changeover the other Scandinavian sensation of the evening took to the stage. But wait, what’s this… El Perro Del Mar’s backing band looked strikingly familiar and, lo and behold, it turned out to be the same band that had backed Taken By Trees. Mercifully though, the screecher was not in El Perro Del Mar’s band.
Dressed in an oversized button shirt that was likely picked up from a thrift store, Sarah Assbring had the attire to go with an overall style that was straight out of the 80’s. Assbring engaged the audience with little pieces of conversation in an endearing Swedish broken English, including a comment about how nice it was to see the sun today – indeed, it’d been a pleasant Spring-like day in Toronto, though 24 hours later snow had arrived, so that was a bit of a jinx.
I found myself transfixed by the performance and the vocal of Assbring. “Let Me In” and “Gotta Get Smart” were two favourites from her set. Meanwhile, when the drummer switched to the electro pads at the side of his kit for “A Better Love”, the combination of these thumping beats with a booming bass was so thunderous that I watched with earnest as some rattling bottles on top of a fridge behind the bar seemed came so close to exploding with from the shock waves in the air.
El Perro Del Mar were great, with Sarah Assbring being completely captivating. As she swayed on stage, she slow danced with the microphone and at other times picked up a 12-string acoustic. Assbring looked like a pure rock n’ roll space cadet – she was in another world, likely lost in her music and it was great to witness. She is a total anti-pop star. Her songs, with themes of love and anti-love, have grown stronger with every record and she has sounded increasingly affected – on stage this mopey superstar comes alive in the most mesmerizing way.
© Brian Banks, Music Vice
Taken By Trees Setlist:
To Lose Someone
Greyest Love Of All
Day by Day
Lost and Found
Watch The Waves
Album Review – Taken By Trees – East of Eden